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Agricultural vehicles guide

A guide for their safe and legal use on New Zealand roads

Land Transport Rules - Questions & answers

Agricultural Vehicle Amendment Rules 2013

Background

What are the amendment Rules?

The Associate Minister of Transport, Michael Woodhouse, has signed the following amendment Rules that apply to vehicles used for agricultural purposes:

What is the purpose of the amendment Rules?

The changes will ensure that legislation affecting the primary production sector is fit for purpose and does not impose unnecessary costs or restrictions.

Why are these changes needed?

Industry representatives raised concerns that the current requirements were not appropriate for the conditions faced by agricultural vehicle operators. For example, contractors and farmers need to harvest crops when they are ready, and the weather is right. Sometimes this may mean working long and irregular hours.

A review of agricultural transport legislation considered which changes could be made to allow greater flexibility for agricultural operations while maintaining safety for operators and other road users.

What are the benefits of the changes?

The Ministry of Transport estimates that changes arising from the agricultural vehicles review should result in a net benefit of $51 million over 25 years. Other benefits include greater compliance, a larger labour force to draw on and greater operational flexibility for the owners of agricultural vehicles.

How were these changes developed?

A review team led by the Ministry of Transport, that included Police, the NZ Transport Agency and the Department of Labour looked at whether the current requirements for agricultural vehicles properly took account of the realities facing the industry and how they compared to those in other developed countries. Discussions were held with industry groups as well as others affected by these requirements and, as a result, the Ministry sought public feedback on a position paper setting out potential changes. The Government considered this feedback as well as research and analysis and decided to progress a number of actions to improve regulation of agricultural vehicles.

When will the changes come into force?

With one exception, the changes will come into force on 1 June 2013. The change from a six-monthly to a 12-monthly frequency for warrant of fitness inspections for agricultural vehicles that operate at speeds exceeding 40 km/h will come into force on 11 November 2013. Until the changes come into force, the existing Rule requirements will continue to apply.

Changes made by the amendment Rules

Driver licensing

  1. Increase the maximum speed limit for Class 1 licensed drivers of agricultural vehicles from 30 km/h to 40 km/h.
  2. Allow drivers with a Class 1 (car) restricted licence to operate agricultural tractors up to 18,000 kg (25,000 kg in combination with an agricultural trailer) at a speed not exceeding 40km/h.
  3. As an interim measure, allow Class 1 drivers with a wheels (W) endorsement to operate specialist agricultural motor vehicles of up to 18 tonnes, at a speed not exceeding 40km/h, and tractors at a speed exceeding 40 km/h. Officials will investigate the creation, at a later date, of a new agricultural vehicle endorsement on the Class 1 (car) licence.
  4. Enable the holder of an overseas agricultural vehicle licence to drive an equivalent agricultural vehicle in New Zealand that is allowed to be driven on a New Zealand Class 1 licence, for up to 12 months.

Work time and logbooks

  1. Reduce the numbers of drivers of agricultural motor vehicles who are subject to work time limits.
  2. Provide in the Rule for a variation of work time requirements that meets the needs of the agricultural sector and that applies to the sector as a whole.
  3. Simplify and improve the application process for an alternative fatigue management scheme to make this a more practical option for complying with work time requirements.

Heavy vehicles

  1. Update the Heavy Vehicle Rule to reflect the current practice for towing connections between heavy agricultural motor vehicles.

Vehicle dimensions and mass limits

  1. Increase the permitted forward overhang for an agricultural motor vehicle to a maximum of four metres.
  2. Allow greater flexibility in the design of hazard panels and in the use of alternative visibility markings.
  3. Provide that agricultural vehicles travelling in a convoy of not more than three vehicles do not need to have a pilot vehicle for each agricultural vehicle as long as they have a pilot vehicle at the front and rear of the convoy and there is a reasonable space for passing vehicles within the convoy.
  4. Clarify that the operator of an agricultural motor vehicle is not required to remove forks or other equipment fitted to the front when operating on the road provided that the operator complies with the requirements applying to external projections.

Vehicle lighting

  1. Require agricultural motor vehicles registered after 1 June 2013 to display and operate an amber beacon that is visible from the front and rear at distances of at least 100 metres.

Vehicle inspection

  1. Remove the requirement for agricultural vehicles that operate at up to 40km/h to have warrant of fitness (WoF)/certificate of fitness (CoF) inspections.
  2. Allow agricultural vehicles that operate at speeds exceeding 40 km/h to obtain a WoF annually, rather than six monthly, and provide for a revised and simplified WoF inspection for these vehicles.

Driver licensing and work time changes

(Amendments to the Land Transport (Driver Licensing) Rule 1999 and Land Transport Rule: Work Time and Logbooks 2007)

1. Increase the maximum speed limit for Class 1 licensed drivers of agricultural vehicles from 30 km/h to 40 km/h. Which vehicles will this apply to?

As with the current 30 km/h speed restriction, this will apply to tractors up to 18 tonnes, or 25 tonnes in combination. Other specialised agricultural vehicles will require a wheels (W) endorsement (see 3 below).

Does this pose a safety risk?

The new 40 km/h limit is not considered to pose a safety risk. Agricultural vehicles that did not require a WoF, or were being driven by a driver with a Class 1 licence, were allowed to travel only at a maximum speed of 30 km/h on the road. The speed difference this creates between these vehicles and other traffic travelling at open road speeds increases the risk of rear-end crashes. Raising the permitted speed should help reduce this difference and reduce this risk.

The low speed requirement and nature of agricultural work means that the majority of agricultural vehicles that travel at 40 km/h or less will be making only short trips on the road. In addition, the changes will be monitored to ensure they work as intended.

How will this be enforced?

This regime will make enforcement easier. Previously, in addition to operating speed, Police had to take into account factors such as a vehicle’s speed capability, the distance the vehicle has travelled from its home base, and its weight, and the driver’s licence.

2. Allow drivers with a Class 1 (car) restricted licence to operate agricultural tractors up to 18,000 kg (25,000 kg in combination with an agricultural trailer) at a speed not exceeding 40km/h. Why is there a need to allow restricted licence holders to operate these agricultural vehicles?

Previously, a Class 1 full licence was required to operate agricultural vehicles – and a full licence cannot be obtained until age 18 (or 17½ with an approved course). However, a Class 1 restricted licence can be obtained from age 16½.

This change will significantly increase the number of people able to work in the agricultural sector – it is estimated that there are 45,000 restricted licence holders in rural areas.

This change will also bring New Zealand’s age requirements for driving agricultural vehicles much closer to those in other jurisdictions, eg the United Kingdom, where a tractor licence can be obtained at age 16.

Is it safe for restricted licence holders to drive these vehicles?

Recent changes to the driver licensing tests mean that restricted drivers will have much more driving experience and have a greater ability at driving in a wider variety of situations. In addition, the age at which a person can apply for a restricted licence has been raised to 16½.

Under this change, restricted licence holders will still need to meet the conditions of their licence when operating a tractor on the road. Also, it is important to note that this change will only allow them to operate tractors on the road at speeds of 40 km/h or less.

Employers are also required to provide machine-type specific training under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

3. As an interim measure, allow Class 1 drivers with a wheels (W) endorsement to operate specialist agricultural motor vehicles of up to 18 tonnes, at a speed not exceeding 40 km/h, or tractors above that speed. Officials will investigate the creation, at a later date, of a new agricultural vehicle endorsement on the Class 1 (car) licence.

How is this different from the previous requirements?

Previously, any person who drove a tractor faster than 30 km/h had to hold a Class 2 driver licence.

How will the wider application of the W endorsement work?

The aim of this change is to provide for the wider use of the special-type vehicle endorsement on the Class 1 (car) licence. The types of vehicle that will be able to be operated under this change currently require a Class 2 (truck) licence.

Allowing a wider range of vehicles to be driven with a Class 1 driver licence will make it easier for the agricultural sector to recruit employees with the required driving qualifications. A ‘W’ endorsement is already held by many drivers within the sector, and it takes less time (and cost) to acquire than a Class 2 licence.

How will these changes improve road safety?

Raising the speed limit for Class 1 licence drivers will reduce the difference in speed between agricultural vehicles and other vehicles on the road, thereby reducing the risk of crashes.

4. Enable the holder of an overseas agricultural vehicle licence to drive an equivalent agricultural vehicle in New Zealand that can be driven on a Class 1 (car) licence, for up to 12 months.

Why is there a need to allow for overseas agricultural vehicle licences?

New Zealand law does not currently recognise agricultural vehicle licences from countries such as the United Kingdom and Ireland. These licences have similar requirements to those in New Zealand and industry representatives have commented that recognising overseas tractor licences would improve their ability to recruit seasonal workers. Rural Contractors New Zealand estimate that up to 30 percent of their workers are from overseas countries.

The sector faces difficulties in recruiting overseas workers currently, as the time taken for seasonal workers to graduate to a Class 1 full New Zealand licence provides a disincentive if the worker is here for a year or less.

Note: a UK tractor licence requires a practical test on a tractor. It is available to drivers there earlier than a car licence.

5. Reduce the number of drivers of agricultural vehicles who are subject to work time limits

Who will not have to comply with work time limits?

Anyone who drives a tractor or agricultural vehicle requiring a Class 1 licence is not subject to work time limits. The changes to the Driver Licensing Rule allow a greater number of vehicles to be operated on a Class 1 licence. This will significantly reduce the numbers of persons subject to the Work Time and Logbook Rule. It should help contractors and farmers who often need to work long or irregular hours during harvest, and who also need to work around the weather. It should be noted that vehicles requiring a Class 2 licence to drive remain subject to work time limits. In general, the removal of work time limits only applies to larger vehicles when they are operated at speeds not exceeding 40 km/h.

Will fewer vehicles subject to work time limits mean there is a greater risk of crashes caused by fatigue?

Employers of drivers not subject to work time limits are still required to manage risk by meeting the general duties of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. The risk management approach provided for by this Act is considered to offer a better approach than the Rule for managing fatigue among agricultural vehicle operators.

Under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, where a significant hazard such as fatigue is identified, the employer must take all practicable steps to eliminate the hazard, isolate the hazard (when elimination is impracticable), or minimise the hazard (when elimination and isolation is impracticable).

Section 17 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act places a duty on self-employed persons to take all practicable steps to ensure that they do not put themselves or others at risk of harm. A similar duty (section 19) applies to employees. As well, there is a specific duty to ensure that employees are properly trained in the operation of vehicles or machinery.

How many crashes involving agricultural vehicles have been caused by fatigue?

Fatigue has not featured much in the reports for crashes involving agricultural vehicles. The review team looked at all crash reports involving agricultural vehicles from 1997 to 2010. Only one crash listed fatigue as a contributing factor.

Do other countries subject operators of agricultural vehicles to work time restrictions?

Research commissioned by the Ministry of Transport found that New Zealand law was more restrictive than that in nearly all the other jurisdictions surveyed. Most of the other countries exempted the agriculture sector in some way from work time restrictions.

Does this mean agricultural vehicle operators can work for as long as they want without taking a break?

No. This new flexibility will be balanced by the ongoing requirement for rural employers under the Health and Safety in Employment Act to effectively manage worker fatigue. This means that agricultural vehicle operators will not be able to work unlimited hours for extended periods of time.

In addition, the Employment Relations Act 2000 provides that employees are entitled to:

  • one 10-minute paid rest break if their work period is two hours or more but not more than four hours
  • one 10-minute paid rest break and one unpaid 30-minute meal break if their work period is more than four hours but not more than six hours
  • two 10-minute paid rest breaks and one unpaid 30-minute meal break if their work period is more than six hours but not more than eight hours.

These requirements begin over again if an employee’s work period is more than eight hours.

6. A variation of work time requirements that meets the needs of the agricultural sector and that applies to the sector as a whole.

What is the NZ Transport Agency Work Time Variation for Critical Agricultural Operations?

This allows operators a variation of work time hours in order to allow them to complete agricultural tasks where time is an issue, such as harvesting. An allowance is also made for tasks such as preparing for planting or spraying a crop.

7. Simplify and improve the application process for an alternative fatigue management scheme to make this a more practical option for complying with work time requirements

What is the purpose of an alternative fatigue management scheme?

This provides flexibility for an operator to set up and be bound by an alternative scheme for managing fatigue to the work time restrictions that are contained in the Rule, which may be more appropriate for their operation.

Why is the application process being simplified and improved?

Operators have expressed concern that the application process is too complicated and that the benefits offered by the option of an alternative scheme are not sufficient to justify the amount of time involved.

Heavy vehicle and over dimension vehicle changes

(Amendments to Land Transport Rule: Heavy Vehicles 2004 and Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Dimensions and Mass 2002)

8. Update the Heavy Vehicles Rule to reflect the current practice for towing connections between heavy agricultural motor vehicles

Why was this change required?

Guidance on best practice for addressing the risks from the decoupling of trailers and towed implements from tractors has been provided in the NZ Transport Agency’s Agricultural Vehicle Guide 2009.

The guidelines simplified the Rule requirements, which were seen by industry as being too complex and costly, and have encouraged compliance. The guidelines have now been included in the Rule.

9. Increase the permitted forward overhang for an agricultural motor vehicle to a maximum of four metres

Previously, the Rule stated that if the distance measured from the foremost point of a vehicle to the front edge of the driver’s seat was more than three metres, the vehicle should be treated as an overdimension vehicle. However, agricultural tractors are now longer with most exceeding three metres. The Rule has been updated by increasing the front overhang threshold to a maximum length of four metres.

To help reduce any potential risk from an increased front overhang, one or more amber beacons will have to be fitted to agricultural motor vehicles registered from 1 June 2013.

10. Allow greater flexibility in the design of hazard panels and in the use of alternative visibility markings

What are the requirements for ensuring that parts that overhang the vehicle don’t pose a hazard to safety?

Protruding parts that overhang the front of vehicles (by more than four metres in front of the driver’s seat) must be appropriately marked, eg a tractor with a front bucket fitted must either fit hazard panels to the bucket or paint it with high visibility paint.

All vehicles that exceed standard width must be fitted with approved hazard panels to indicate the dimensions of the vehicle to other road users approaching from the front and rear. The Rule now allows more flexibility in complying with this requirement by providing for variations in the design of hazard panel to be approved.

How will a new hazard panel configuration be better than the existing one?

Concerns have been raised that the existing hazard panel is difficult to fit because of the design of some tractors and other large agricultural motor vehicles, and can impede visibility. The alternative configuration could be used where it is not practicable to fit the panel currently prescribed by the Rule, or when better warning could be achieved by using a different configuration.

11. Provide that agricultural vehicles travelling in a convoy of not more than three vehicles do not need to have a pilot vehicle for each agricultural vehicle as long as they have a pilot vehicle at the front and rear of the convoy and there is a reasonable space for passing vehicles within the convoy.

Why was there a need to change this requirement?

Requiring a pilot for each agricultural vehicle in a convoy is seen as unnecessarily costly. Improved hazard panelling will maintain safety without adding unnecessary compliance costs.

Why are only three agricultural vehicles going to be allowed to travel in a convoy?

A convoy of three agricultural vehicles and two pilot vehicles equates to five vehicles. Any more than five vehicles would significantly obstruct other road traffic and increase the risk for other vehicles attempting to pass the convoy.

12. Clarify that the operator of an agricultural vehicle is not required to remove forks or other equipment fitted to the front when operating on the road provided that the operator complies with the requirements applying to external projections.

Is this the current law?

Yes. Land Transport Rule: External Projections 2001 already provides that a vehicle may be fitted with a protruding ornamental or functional object or fitting. However, the protruding ornamental object or fitting must:

  • not be likely to injure a person
  • be installed so that the risk of the object or fitting causing injury to a person is minimised
  • not adversely affect driver vision or driver control

Why is there a need to clarify this?

There is a common misconception by operators of agricultural vehicles that they are required to remove tractor forks if this can be done within 30 minutes. The Rule now makes it clear that, in ensuring that their vehicle does not present a safety risk to the driver or other road users, operators must comply with the relevant safety requirements in the External Projections Rule.

Is it safe for agricultural vehicles to operate on the road with forks or other equipment fitted?

Yes, provided operators comply with the best practice for managing the risk, outlined in the Agricultural Vehicles Guide 2009(due to be updated later in 2013 when all changes have been introduced.)

Vehicle lighting change

(Amendments to the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004 and Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Lighting 2004.)

13. Require agricultural vehicles to display and operate an amber beacon that is visible from the front and rear at distances of at least 100 metres.

Why is there a need for this beacon?

Crash statistics show that a lack of forward warning to other road users about the presence of a slow moving agricultural vehicle on narrow and winding rural roads is a leading cause of crashes involving agricultural vehicles. Displaying an amber beacon will help prevent crashes by improving the forward and rear visibility of agricultural vehicles and will be more effective than displaying additional hazard panels.

The Ministry of Transport, NZ Transport Agency, Police Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit, Federated Farmers of New Zealand, Rural Contractors New Zealand and the Tractor and Machinery Association all supported making amber beacons mandatory.

How much will this cost?

This change will not apply retrospectively. Only agricultural vehicles registered on or after 1 June 2013 will need to have an amber beacon. Agricultural vehicles registered prior to the implementation date will be allowed to have an amber beacon but it will not be mandatory.

The majority of new agricultural vehicles come equipped with amber beacons. For the few new agricultural vehicles that do not have amber beacons, the cost of purchasing and fitting a beacon is estimated to be between $155 and $210 a vehicle. This cost will vary depending on the ability of the vehicle owner to fit the beacon themselves.

Are beacons fitted on these types of vehicles in other jurisdictions?

Most other jurisdictions do not require fitting of amber beacons. However, most manufacturers fit amber beacons to agricultural vehicles before they leave the factory. The Ministry of Transport estimates that 30 percent of the current agricultural vehicle fleet has an amber beacon fitted.

Vehicle inspection changes

(Amendments to Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Standards Compliance 2002)

14 . Remove the requirement for agricultural vehicles that operate at up to 40km/h to have warrant of fitness (WoF)/certificate of fitness (CoF) inspections

Will allowing agricultural vehicles on the road without a WoF increase safety risks?

Previously, agricultural vehicles that operated below 30 km/h were exempt from vehicle inspection obligations, but were required to be roadworthy and not pose a danger to other road users under the Land Transport Act 1998 and the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

Vehicles that opt to operate up to 40 km/h will remain subject to the roadworthiness requirement. A simplified WoF standard will provide guidance for operators of these vehicles and the Police on the applicable standard expected for these vehicles.

Police roadside inspections will demonstrate a low tolerance for non-compliance. The Ministry of Transport intends to review the impact of the changes in the 2016/17 financial year.

How will the proposed WoF changes proposed in the Vehicle Standards Compliance Amendment Rule (as part of vehicle licensing reforms) affect agricultural vehicles?

Agricultural vehicles are covered under a separate WoF structure to other vehicles and therefore will not be affected by the changes being proposed as part of the government’s vehicle licensing reforms.

How many crashes involving agricultural vehicles have been caused by mechanical failure?

Crash reports from 1997 to 2010 suggest that low compliance with the inspection regime has not resulted in serious safety problems. Crash reports listed non-compliance with core mechanical standards for agricultural vehicles as a contributing factor in 2 percent of crashes involving agricultural vehicles.

15. Allow agricultural vehicles that operate over 40 km/h to obtain a WoF annually, rather than six-monthly, and provide for a revised and simplified WoF inspection for these vehicles.

Will an annual WoF be enough to ensure these vehicles are safe?

Vehicle owners will still be required to keep vehicles maintained to a roadworthy condition under the Land Transport Act 1998 and the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

The introduction of mandatory amber beacons for agricultural vehicles should also help improve road safety.

Will any changes apply to agricultural trailers and implements?

Agricultural trailers and implements will continue to be exempted from WoF, licensing and road user charges requirements. However, owners must maintain their agricultural trailers and implements to a roadworthy condition.

Will the Agricultural Vehicle Guide be updated?

Yes, it is planned to replace the current (2009) Agricultural Vehicle Guide by the end of 2013, once all sections of the package are in place.

General

What is the legal basis for the amendment Rules?

Section 152 of the Land Transport Act 1998 sets out the Minister’s general power to make Land Transport Rules. The Minister’s powers to make Rules on specific aspects of land transport (for example, vehicle standards) are contained in sections 153 to 159 of the Act.

How can I obtain a copy of the amendment Rules?

Copies of all Land Transport Rules can be purchased from selected bookshops that sell legislation and most are also available from Wickliffe Solutions, telephone (06) 354 6337. The Driver Licensing and Road User Rules are available from Legislation Direct, telephone (04) 568 0005.

Final signed Rules are also available on the NZ Transport Agency’s website at: www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/rules/about/index.html.

Rules may also be inspected, free of charge, at the National Office and regional offices of the NZ Transport Agency.

Where can I get more information?

Further information about the Rule amendment is available from the NZTA Contact Centre, freephone 0800 699 000 (for driver licensing enquiries, call 0800 822 422). As required, the NZ Transport Agency will update relevant Factsheets and other information relating to motor vehicles used for agricultural purposes.

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